April 3, 2012
You’ll find it everywhere in the Twin Cities. Muddy Waters in Uptown has become known for it, boasting 30 different varieties including the latest and greatest from the local scene. Tilia has a rotating list from around the country, ranging from light, crisp and refreshing to decadent, dark, and chocolatey.
Think I’m talking about wine? Try again. Over the past 25 years, craft brewing cultivated a community determined to experience flavor, richness and aroma from beer, not wine. It’s led to an influx of local breweries and within a 50-mile radius you can find Summit, Surly, Fulton, Harriet Brewing, Schell’s, Lift Bridge, Steel Toe and many more.
Good for beer lovers in the Twin Cities, but challenging for local breweries. As demand for craft beer continues to rise, each brewery fights to be on-tap at restaurants, find a spot on the liquor store shelf and be in hands of thirsty consumers. They’re fighting for local market share.
So, what makes a craft beer appealing?
When you’re ordering in a restaurant or overwhelmed in front of the beer selection at your local liquor store, what motivates your purchase decision? Is it logo design? What about the name? How important is taste? Does the brewery’s story pull at your heart strings and your wallet? I posed this question to my fellow beer drinkers at Fast Horse to see what beers they love and why they love ‘em.
Bob Ingrassia: One big driver for me is a hometown connection. With so many craft beer labels lining the shelves these days, I’ve found myself more willing to give local brewers a shot. I’d rather take a chance on an IPA from Fulton in Minneapolis than an offering from a quirkily named brewery in Portland, Ore. Having once lived in Texas and New York, I’m still partial to Shiner Bock and Brooklyn Lager.
Andrew Miller: I’m a sucker for Summit Brewing Company’s entire lineup, from its mainstay, the Extra Pale Ale, to my winter favorite, the Oatmeal Stout. But more than that, I like that Summit doesn’t get swept up in the “best local brew” rat race marked by gimmicky packaging and cooler-than-thou pretention. (I’m looking at you, Surly and Fulton.) Summit speaks to our best local sensibilities – modesty, humbleness and Minnesota nice. If I have a friend in town from out of the region, I won’t let them leave without having a pint of Summit EPA.
My opinion: I’ll have to agree to disagree with Mr. Miller. I just can’t get enough of Surly or Fulton. I was more than happy to spring for a four-pack of Abrasive Ale this winter, Sweet Child of Vine is absolutely divine and Lonely Blonde will have some competition with Cynic for my go-to summer beer. They’re crisp, refreshing and have the perfect balance of hops. Outside of the Minnesota beer scene, I’m a big fan of Rush River Brewing (Bubblejack) and Deschutes (everything is tasty).
For me, taste is king. I love trying new beer and asking my server/bartender for their recommendation. But, if I don’t like it then I won’t come knockin’. Also, great names can go a long way and I’m much more likely to go for beer in a can than a bottle. Now it’s starting to make sense why I’m so drawn to Surly.
Beyond that, the stuff you’re asking about are some of the factors that can help a Good Beer become a Favorite Beer – one people happily rave about and don’t shut up about and look forward to buying and drinking. I get a special kick out of Lift Bridge beer because it’s brewed a mile from my house in Stillwater. I love Fulton’s Sweet Child of Vine because A) it has a great name, B) it’s another great local brewery and C) it tastes great.
But it’s not just local stuff. I’m an over-the-top fanboy of New Belgium Brewing. Everything they touch tastes like gold (not literally metallic; it’s just awesome – shut up, you know what I mean). In that case, there’s nothing in particular that formed that connection other than consistently kick-ass beer.